Roger Benitez is a notoriously gun-friendly U.S. district judge. Based in San Diego, Benitez has for years ruled against California’s gun safety laws. Between March 2019 and June 2021, he struck down regulations regarding ammunition capacity and background checks for ammo purchases, as well as the state’s decades-old assault weapons ban. “Somewhat lost in the hubbub,” writes Greg Moran for The San Diego Union-Tribune, “was how Benitez, then one of 13 district court judges, ended up ruling on three separate gun cases that were filed at different times over a couple of years.”
Moran explains that Benitez ended up on those cases thanks to a common federal court rule that allows a party to request that their lawsuit be transferred to a judge overseeing a similar case. Unlike in other federal courts, though, a local court rule in San Diego didn’t include a formal procedure for a party to object to their case being reassigned, leaving it instead for the two judges to agree to the switch.
Last week, that rule — which gun reform proponents said allowed “judge shopping” — was revised to require a more substantial statement on why cases are related and instituted a formal objection process. The final decision, though, is still left to the judges. “How much of a difference this will make,” writes Moran, “remains to be seen.”
What to Know Today
Democrats in the Minnesota Senate used their one-vote majority to pass a major public safety bill that includes provisions that would expand background checks for gun transfers and establish an extreme risk protection order law. The firearm safety measures were previously approved by the House, and Governor Tim Walz has repeatedly affirmed his support of the legislation. [Associated Press]
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that bans credit card companies from tracking gun and ammunition sales; several major credit card companies committed to creating a new merchant code for firearm sales last year. [The New Republic]
President Joe Biden penned an op-ed, published on the anniversary of the Buffalo shooting, urging Congress, state legislators, and governors to take action to reduce gun violence, including “by banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, requiring gun owners to securely store their firearms, requiring background checks for all gun sales, and repealing gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability.” [USA TODAY]
It’s Election Day in Philadelphia — and the race for the city’s top job has centered on gun violence, a crisis that’s sparked calls for the next mayor to replace Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. How has Philly’s gun violence changed under its previous top cops? [WHYY] Context: Outlaw has ducked criticism for the city’s rising violence since she took office in February 2020. It’s only relatively recently that some began questioning why she hasn’t received more of the blame.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, who announced that he’d call a special session in August on gun safety, quietly signed legislation giving gunmakers further protections against liability lawsuits. [Associated Press]
Families of victims of the 2021 mass shooting at Michigan’s Oxford High School want to know if the attack could have been prevented. They’re still waiting for the district to give them answers. [ProPublica]
Commenting on a judge’s decision to strike down federal age limits for gun sales, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said there could be a “popular revolt” if the Supreme Court blocks some forms of gun safety legislation. He added, “A court that’s already pretty illegitimate is going to be in full crisis mode.” [Politico]
Violence against health care workers is on the rise, and some hospitals are responding by creating armed police forces. But critics warn that these in-house forces could escalate violence in health care settings. [KFF Health News]
Why Is It Easier to Buy Bullets Than Cold Medicine?: Ammunition isn’t regulated like guns. But it used to be. Advocates and lawmakers say it’s a missed opportunity. (January 2023)